Billy Ott was born on Saturday, November 23, 1940, in New York, New York. Ott was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on September 4, 1962, with the Chicago Cubs. When he first stepped onto Wrigley Field, I was just a kid. Years later I found myself in front of a man with a stocky frame, and strong hands that looked as if they could squeeze the life out of you. To me he was just "Bill", a locksmith I had introduced myself to when I began my journey into the field of locksmithing.
Bill ran a vibrant lock and hardware business with his two sons which he was very proud of and would often brag about their skills in free hand mortising and automotive prowess. We would sit and talk for long periods of time and I would enjoy listening to the "old timer" as he would ramble off the nuances of complex locks and his days working in New York City when Segal Jimmy Proof locks and Medeco were everywhere.
Watching his expressions and listening as he would roll back in time and share his wisdom gave me a sense that my time was well spent. Bill had also served as a police officer in New York City, something he never threw around or spoke of with embellishments. He was the strong and silent type so when he would take a seat at his workbench in the rear of his shop and invites me to sit, I was honored. I discovered a man rich with history, honor, love of family and country. Known as Papi to his grandchildren, he would shine with pride over the thought that he would be taking care of them after he would close his shop for the day.
Bill is one of several mentors in my growth as a professional locksmith. I will never forget his advice at the time...."Save every little part, they come in handy when you need them." With that I would salvage everything imaginable and put them into parts bins, so much so that other locksmiths would laugh and say give the junk to Tom he takes anything!
Late one night in freezing temperatures with little light in my service van, I remember the sinking feeling I had when a small retainer spring flew from the rear of a key-in-knob cylinder and disappeared into the darkness. After a few explicit remarks I sat down and remembered what Bill had taught me. Luckily, I had a replacement that I had salvaged from a discarded cylinder.
It is amazing how the past is relevant, how old things have meaning and should not be forgotten and every little thing counts. Something as small as a spring and something as big as achieving playing in the major league! Billy Ott played for the Chicago Cubs!
Although he would diminish this fact without fan fair in his humble way, he would on the other hand, praise the talent of those he played with as a teammate. To watch how he would squint his eyes as they would twinkle and purse his lips as he would describe the power or speed of another player was testament that this guy was the real deal. He admired them deeply. When I asked Bill about his salary, he would roll his eyes and laugh and say about $1500 a year! "Back then it was a privileged to walk on that field." he would say...a privilege.
The date today is February 22, 2011 and it is "my" privilege to share my experience with Mr. Billy Ott. Although he is humble and considers his time in the majors minor, I would say that anyone who is given the opportunity to step onto Wrigley Field at a time when the entire major league had maybe 8 teams....was something to be proud of.
Your a great guy Billy, and I am grateful for having you as a mentor and my friend. Enjoy your retirement and remember the Society of Professional Locksmiths is here whenever you want to pull up a chair and talk shop.
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